Omali Lodge is a welcoming boutique hotel on Sao Tome, and makes an ideal base for exploring the island. We spent a couple of nights here at the beginning of our trip to Sao Tome and Principe, and then returned for a day at the end before catching our flight home.
Whilst Omali Lodge isn’t as stylish or luxurious as its sister hotels on Principe (all owned by the HBD group), we found it ideal for what we wanted. Plus having done some pretty thorough research, we reckon it’s probably the best choice of accommodation on an island where tourism is still a relatively new concept.
Introducing Omali Lodge – a Boutique Hotel on Sao Tome
Set within beautiful tropical gardens with a heavenly pool surrounded by palm trees, Omali Lodge is a favourite with couples, families, tour groups and business travellers. The accessible location is a huge draw, and combined with friendly staff, top notch grub and a laid back vibe, Omali Lodge really is one of the best places to stay on Sao Tome.
Omali Lodge Location
The location of Omali Lodge is simply superb, with a beach just across the road and the airport a two minute free shuttle ride away. You might shy away from staying so close to a transport hub, but don’t worry, this is one of the tiniest airports in the world, and you’d have no idea it was there except for the occasional plane flying overhead. As soon as you leave the airport grounds it’s straight into island life, with palm trees, wooden houses and the coast everywhere you turn.
Staying at a hotel close to Sao Tome airport is important for anyone planning to visit Principe. Flights to this sister island depart early in the morning, so unless you want a really early start to your travel day, being just around the corner makes transfers effortless and stress-free.
This strategic location on the north-eastern coast of Sao Tome is ideal for exploring the island, with easy access to both the north and south. There’s only one main round that runs around two thirds of the island, and Omali Lodge is almost half way along, right in the middle of the route.
Rooms at Omali Lodge
There are 30 rooms and suites at Omali Lodge comprising classic rooms, junior suites and family suites. We stayed in a Junior Suite and would recommend you choose this category as it comes with a private veranda or balcony and overlooks the pool. The classic rooms were around the other side of the building facing the road, and didn’t seem like a space you’d particularly want to spend a lot of time in.
Rooms and suites are situated in several rather bland blocks centred on the pool, and interiors are definitely functional rather than decorative. Yet with the glorious outdoor garden spaces just a step away that didn’t really matter, and we spent very little time in our suite anyway. We did love standing on the balcony in the evenings, watching the sun set behind the palm trees and listening to the bat colony come alive in anticipation of a good feed.
Bathrooms were clean with good water pressure and fluffy towels!
Omali Lodge Facilities & Service
The swimming pool at the centre of the hotel grounds is just gorgeous, and surrounded by tropical gardens it’s the perfect spot to relax after a day out sightseeing. There’s a friendly little pool bar at one end so you don’t have to walk far for refreshments. A gym and tennis courts are available for guest use too, but we were on holiday so these didn’t feature in our plans!
The indoor bar and lounge is a comfortable space for socialising before dinner, and there’s a small shop selling scrummy Sao Tome chocolate, and eye-wateringly priced branded water bottles.
The team at Omali Lodge were all lovely and welcoming, mostly speaking excellent English which put our hurriedly-learned phrases of Portuguese to shame. Service here is laid back yet professional, easing us into the ‘leve-leve’ (slowly-slowly) attitude to life for which Sao Tome and Principe is famous.
Food at Omali Lodge
The pizza at Omali Lodge is the business!
We arrived late on our first day, tired after travelling and just wanting something quick and simple for dinner. Deciding to leave the octopus and other local delicacies for another evening, we got stuck into pizzas and burgers, not caring that sticking to comfort food was a bit of a cop out. In fact we ordered pizza the next night too as it was so tasty, and aren’t ashamed one bit!
The restaurant was attractive, with views out across the road towards the sea, and the only thing missing was a bit of background music to give it some atmosphere. Without music it felt far too quiet, and we found ourselves almost whispering over dinner to stop everyone listening to our conversation. It’s a small thing, but it would make such a difference.
Breakfast was decent, with lots of exciting sounding local treats to try – the carrot and coconut muffins were particularly good!
Activities at Omali Lodge
The joy of visiting such a tiny island is that you can stay in one place and easily take day trips out to all the sights. The best way to explore Sao Tome is with a guide and driver, because local knowledge makes such a different to the experience, and the country isn’t geared up for independent tourism the way many other places are.
You can hire a car, but you’ll need a 4×4 to access many of the sights which are hidden away down bumpy plantation tracks. Although the roads themselves weren’t in too bad a state of repair (do beware of unexpected potholes and free roaming pigs!), the main issue we thought we’d have was navigation. There’s no way we would have reached half of the places we saw if we’d have been by ourselves.
Day trips can be arranged at reception the day before, although do give more notice if you can. Some popular visits include Sao Tome City (the capital!), cocoa and coffee plantations, waterfalls, jungle hikes, secluded beaches, mangrove canoe tours, and meals at a traditional restaurant. Diving, whale watching and turtle nesting tours are also available.
I’ve written a comprehensive list of the best activities to do on Sao Tome and Principe…all the Sao Tome options can be done whilst staying at Omali Lodge.
Sister Hotels on Principe
Omali Lodge has three sister hotels on the island of Principe: Bom Bom, Sundy Praia and Roca Sundy. We’ve stayed at all of them, with each having something different to offer. A popular itinerary for travellers to Sao Tome and Principe is to start off at Omali Lodge on Sao Tome, then head to Principe for some beach time at either Bom Bom or Sundy Praia, and a stay on an inland plantation at Roca Sundy,
Read More: Best Places to Stay on Sao Tome and Principe
How Long to Spend at Omali Lodge
We only spent two nights here at the start of our holiday, giving us one full day to explore the island before continuing to Principe the next morning. In hindsight, we wish we’d planned at least one more day on Sao Tome, as it has just as much to offer, if not more, than Principe. So I’d suggest three nights at the beginning, and then either a night or a day room at the end, depending on your flight times.
Flying home from Sao Tome on the same day that you arrive in from Principe is a bit risky, as sometimes the domestic inter-island flights are cancelled due to bad weather, meaning you’ll be stuck on Principe and will miss your international return flight. As a result, many people like to factor in a final night on Sao Tome at the end of their trip, just in case. We didn’t, and luckily all went well, but for peace of mind it’s something you should consider.
Who Stays at Omali Lodge
Everyone and anyone! Most visitors are travellers, predominantly from Europe or Ghana (where the flight lands briefly between Lisbon and the islands), but the lodge is also popular with business visitors for overnight stays and meetings. It’s a good starting point for tour groups too, and we kept bumping in to some of them as we moved around the islands.
What We Loved
Omali Lodge offers day rooms for travellers returning from Principe, which we were so thankful for at the end of our trip. Flights from Principe arrive back in Sao Tome during the early morning, giving international travellers an entire day to waste before their evening flight back home.
Some people opt to just spend the day exploring Sao Tome, but we were pretty exhausted after all our adventures so a day by the pool with a good book and a room to crash in was precisely what we needed. Plus it gave us the chance to freshen up before flying home via Lisbon, whilst those who had chosen not to have a day room were in the same smelly clothes they’d been wearing since Principe. We were glad we weren’t sitting next to them on the plane!
Omali Lodge has a free airport shuttle which works really well. There are only a handful of international flights from Sao Tome so it’s really easy to organise logistics, both on arrival and departure. Each morning the shuttle departure times are displayed at reception so you know when to be waiting outside the front door for your lift down the road. Sometimes a couple of runs are required if there are more guests than usual, so make sure you arrive in good time to bag a seat on the first trip.
What Wasn’t So Great
Hubbie wasn’t amused by the glitter that appeared to be in the hotel shampoo, and when the poor boy came out of the shower sparkling from head to toe I knew the day wasn’t off to a good start.
Is Omali Lodge Value for Money
Given the accessibility, location and standard of service, then yes, we think the price is about right at Omali Lodge.
Do bear in mind that hotels in Sao Tome and Principe aren’t perhaps as cheap as you’d expect, because the remote location means a lot of products and supplies have to be imported, which understandably makes everything that little bit more expensive.
Would We Return
Absolutely! There really aren’t many other hotels of a similar standard to choose from, and the logistics of exploring Sao Tome and travelling on to Principe make Omali Lodge the obvious choice of accommodation on the island.
How to Book at Stay at Omali Lodge
Most visitors book Omali Lodge on a bed and breakfast basis, as there are other dining options should you wish to venture out into town. Or if you prefer to eat at the hotel you can just book a table at reception.
You can check availability and prices for Omali Lodge here.
Top Tips for Staying at Omali Lodge
- Make use of their day room rate if you’re returning from Principe and travelling straight home the same evening
- Take a water bottle to refill for excursions
- Book a suite rather than a room if you can
Although this trip was a holiday, we received generous media rates and complementary excursions through my role working for a UK tour operator. Huge thanks to the lovely folks at HBD for making this happen, and for giving us such a great time! We were not obligated to write this post, and as always, opinions are our own.
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